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How Did We Get So Many Races of People?

One of the driving forces of Reasons for Hope is answering questions—especially questions about God, the Bible, and the apparent conflicts between them and science. When our speakers are at teen retreats or camps, they provide 3x5 cards for the youth to write down any questions they have that are keeping them from being totally sold out for Jesus Christquestions they've never dared to ask or for which they've never received a satisfactory answer. We are so committed to answering the real-life questions from today's teens, in fact, that we've started putting their questions with our answers in books. Today's blog is one of those questions.

How did we get so many races of people?

If we’re honest, racism is sadly still an issue in our world today. You can’t get away from the anger, bitterness, and strife that we see from groups on all sides of this issue. The following examples are ones that I (Carl) have heard or experienced over the years from churchgoing, “Bible-believing” Christians!
  • “God separated the ‘races’ and now you’re trying to put them back together!”
  • “Robins breed with robins and blue jays breed with blue jays. That’s how it (should be) with humans.”
  • “You’re just trying to justify your sin!”
  • I’ve had churches cancel speaking events for me because they found out that my wife was Japanese. One pastor told me, “Our church bylaws state that if I let a man in an interracial marriage speak in my pulpit, I’ll be removed from ministry.”
  • Or how about the deacon who ashamedly admitted to me that one of his responsibilities was to inform anyone who attended their service and had a different skin tone that they may feel more comfortable attending a different church the next week?
  • Or how about my own grandmother who saw her great-grandchildren only twice in their lifetime because “they (have) those eyes.” I could go on, but for the sake of brevity, I won’t.
So, how do we deal with the issue of race? Should we even deal with it? Should we just let “sleeping dogs lie?” Well, this dog ain’t sleeping; in fact, it’s rabid! It needs to be put down for good, and there’s only one way to do it … biblically! God’s Word is where those of us who claim Christ as our Savior need to turn to deal with this as well as any other issue that arises. I believe one of the first steps in dealing with this sensitive topic is to understand where “races” came from. We’ll look at it first in God’s Word, then we’ll see how science confirms the Bible.

What does the Bible say?

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we ALL go back to one man, Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), and one woman, Eve (Genesis 3:20). That means there’s only ONE RACE—the human race. Yes, there are tribes and nations, which we’ll talk about, but there’s only one “race” of people. As a matter of fact, the Bible never talks about “races” when speaking of His created beings; the word “races” is only used in the context of “running a race.” So, how did we get here from there? I believe the easiest way to explain the different genetic traits that we see in the human population today is from the biblical account of the Tower of Babel.
After the flood, the descendants of Noah and his sons gathered in one place (Genesis 11:1,2). The problem was, God had commanded people to spread out and inhabit the whole Earth (Genesis 1:28; 9:7). Because of their disobedience, God confused their central language How did we get so many races of people? (Genesis 11:7) This has had a profound impact on humans to this day. One obvious result was that mankind began to spread out, as they had originally been commanded to do. The dispersion from Babel as depicted in the compiled historical journals of the Genesis account offer remarkable context not only to the world’s languages, but also to the physical features that distinguish the world’s variety of people groups.
Imagine if Adam and Eve were not “white” or “black.” To do so, you first need to understand that no one is truly “white” or “black.” Every human has the same skin color; it’s opaque. Unless you’re an albino, we’re all lighter or darker shades of brown. This is due to two things: a pigment called melanin and specific genes that work together to give us our different tones.
Starting with a middle brown skin tone, it’s very easy to show that it’s possible for future human offspring to have a wide variety of shades of brown. In fact, I use numerous pictures (like the ones below) in my talks demonstrating that middle brown couples (or couples where one parent is “dark” and the other “light”) can have twins where one is “light” and the other “dark.” Our “color” is nothing more than a genetic trait influenced by environmental triggers! (Note: I even added a bonus picture to show the variation within my own family!)
I would suggest that Noah and his family members would probably have been middle brown. After the flood, as the human population started to increase in size, they would have continued to maintain this trait, since they all lived in the same environment.
When God confused their central language, this larger population broke into smaller groups who connected based on shared communication. Some of these groups would have moved off into different environments, as God had commanded them to do in the first place (Genesis 1:28). As families and tribes became isolated, the genetic potential for variation within these smaller groups narrowed. Distinct physical features were a product of genetically selected qualities that were prominently available and most environmentally suitable. Imagine middle brown people moving to hot, arid climates such as Africa. Over time, the genetic trait for the lightest skin tones would be lost, as this was pre-sunscreen time, and those folks would have died off in that environment.

What does science say?

Interestingly enough, this scenario is not exclusive to the biblical model of diversification; it is also supported by scientific study. In a March 2009, Discover magazine article entitled “Are We Still Evolving?”Kathleen McAuliffe offers the following contribution from two DNA researchers from California:
In our far-flung domains, humans presumably encountered starkly different selective forces as they adjusted to novel foods, predators, climates, and terrains.

All … findings mesh beautifully with the notion that cultural and demographic shifts sparked our transformation. Our exodus out of Africa, for example, paved the way for one of the most obvious markers of race, skin hue.2 As scientists widely recognize, paler complexions are a genetic adjustment to low light: people with dark skin have trouble manufacturing vitamin D from ultraviolet radiation in northern latitudes, which makes them more susceptible to serious bone deformities. Consequently, Europeans and Asians over the past 20,000 years evolved [Note: Genetically adapted] lighter skin through two dozen different mutations that decrease production in the skin pigment melanin.

Similarly, the gene for blue eyes codes for paler skin coloring in many vertebrates and hence have piggybacked along with lighter skin … Harvard University evolutionary biologist Pardis Sebati defends that view. “The immune system and skin interact directly with the outside world,” she says. “They are our last line of defense.” Based on the current evidence, she concludes, sunlight and pathogens were among the strongest selective forces, and skin and the immune system underwent the most dramatic change…As Harvard geneticist David Altshuler wrote in response to one of Sebati’s articles, “It’s reassuring that differences between the races seem to be mostly skin deep.”
Creationists have been promoting this idea for a long time. We would say that all our variations can be traced back to a moment of divine dispersal from a genetic bottleneck a few hundred years after the Flood—one which has no room for any notion of racial superiority.
The idea that “Groups of people vary in appearance because their ancestors had different biological histories,” as promoted by Steve Olson in his book, Mapping Human History (2003), is not only unscientific speculation, but it is convenient fodder for those who seek justification for their racism.
Just as I am quick to criticize the writings of many evolutionists and the racist implications that logically follow, I am compelled to give credit when their discovery has led them to biblically consistent conclusions.
Toward the end of her previously mentioned Discover magazine article, Kathleen McAuliffe includes the following from her interview with University of Wisconsin at Madison anthropologist, John Hawks. “Hawks responds that the best safeguard against bigotry is educating the public. He thinks we understand enough about human genetics to know that the notion of racial superiority is absurd. Intelligence, he argues, is not a single trait but a vast suite of abilities, and each ancestral environment may have favored a different set of talents. What is sorely needed, he says, is an ‘ecological framework’ to interpret the results. ‘Groups are best adapted to their environment, which eliminates the question of superiority.’”
Beyond an ecological framework, what is sorely needed is a biblical framework from which every observation can be rightly interpreted.

Conclusion

The straightforward reading of Genesis represents a history that places all people groups on equal moral, spiritual, and intellectual footing. All of mankind, regardless of birthright, economic status, or academic training is accountable to a holy God for their fallen state. We’re ALL sinners and each of us, regardless of what we look like on the outside, needs a Savior to rescue us from our sin. Every man and woman must personally look to the Creator’s provision for restoration—the Scripture’s prophesied, typified, and revealed Savior of humanity (and ultimately of all of creation), Jesus Christ. We overcome “racism” by starting with the One who created us, loves us, died for us, and wants to spend eternity with us!
Footnotes:
1Kathleen McAuliffe, “Are We Still Evolving?” Discover, March 2009, 51–58. http:// www.astralgia.com/editing/clips/stillevolving2009.pdf
2Anne Habermehl, “Where in the World Is the Tower of Babel?” Answers Research Journal 4 (2011): 25–53. https://answersresearchjournal.org/where-is-the-tower-ofbabel/. This reference to Africa indicates this is written from an evolutionary bias. The biblical account of the Tower of Babel is believed by consensus to have been in Mesopotamia, a region in southwestern Asia, not Africa at all.
Authors' Bios:

D. Marc Jacobs, Jr.
As Senior Vice President of Operations at Penneco Oil Company and its affiliates, Marc oversees all functional areas associated with oil and gas exploration and production; however, his original degree is in theology. The nexus of these experiences and passion for both has given him a unique perspective that has opened doors of opportunity in the field of education. For many years, he taught evening classes at Western Pennsylvania Theological Institute as well as modular courses at other institutes of learning. Marc’s lectures are primarily focused on Origins and the History of the Ancients using a biblical worldview.

Marc and his wife, Sheila, have been married for 37 years and have two daughters with young families of their own—one lives near them in Pennsylvania, and the other daughter lives in Ireland. They are known by their three grandchildren as Lolli and Pops.


Carl Kerby
As President and Co-Founder of Reasons for Hope* Inc., Carl’s passion is to train and equip the next generation to be able to stand boldly on the Word of God. He received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior on May 15, 1987; two years later, he was introduced to the importance of biblical authority at a Back to Genesis Conference. This experience made such an impact on him that for the next six years, he volunteered at these conferences across the globe. In 1993, Carl was invited to serve on the Board of Directors for Answers in Genesis (AiG). Ten years later, he joined AiG as a full-time speaker and Vice President for Ministry Relations. Starting in 2010, the Lord burdened Carl to focus solely on reaching the younger generation. To accomplish this calling, he left AiG and co-created Reasons for Hope* Inc. (RforH) in January 2011.

Carl has been married to his wife, Masami, for over 40 years. They live in Northern Kentucky and enjoy time spent with their two children, five grandchildren, and a beagle pup named Snoopy Deux.


To learn more about Carl, or to book him as a speaker, please click HERE.

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